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Ex Supreme Court Judge Madan B Lokur

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Personal liberty is always urgent, Justice Lokur said (File)

New Delhi:

Former Supreme Court Judge Madan B Lokur said on Tuesday that judiciary has to be on guard to ensure that the police does not exceed authority in an investigation and see there is a fair probe. His remark comes amid country-wide outrage over police atrocities.

He also said law is being misused with cases of sedition being filed against journalists and cautioned that magistrates should not “blindly trust” the prosecution.

Justice (Retd) Lokur said laws are misinterpreted, both at the stage of investigation and the filing of chargesheets but the judiciary has to be extra vigilant and not go merely on the basis of the prosecution.

“It’s important for the judiciary to be on guard; to see that the police is not exceeding its authority. They should examine the FIR, the case diary, find out what is going on and then proceed,” Justice Lokur said.

He was speaking at a webinar — “Shooting the Messenger: The ‘Chilling Effect’ of Criminalising Journalism”, organised by a legal news portal.

Referring to the Tuticorin incident, where a man and his son died after being allegedly thrashed by the police last week, Justice Lokur said that initially, the police said that they had a heart condition and now it has come out that some evidence was deleted.

The magistrate cannot blindly trust the prosecution and there has to be a clear application of mind, Justice Lokur said.

“With these things happening, it’s difficult to trust the police and the investigation being carried out by them,” he said.

Speaking about cases being filed against journalists, Justice Lokur said that in this backdrop, a journalist is never going to be able to trust the fairness of an investigation.

“Then, there is misuse of law. There are examples where there is no question of sedition, but the investigations make out that there is a seditious act involved,” he said.

“Take for example Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Just because there’s the mention of unlawful activities, it doesn’t mean that the Magistrate or the Judge should throw up his hands,” Justice Lokur said, adding that a prima facie case has to be made out.

On the issue of deciding urgent matters by the top court, he said that this has been known for a very long time.

“Bail applications are urgent matters, demolition of property is an urgent matter. There are a large category of cases which can be categorised as urgent. This thing about what is urgent and what is not urgent is completely misplaced.

“For some courts to say that bail matters are not urgent defies logic. Personal liberty is always urgent. A court cannot say that they’ll take it up after a couple of weeks and you should hang around in jail for a while,” Justice Lokur said.

With regard to the attack on citizen journalism during the coronavirus pandemic, he said that if facts are shown then what is the problem.

“If it’s a fact, even if it’s uncomfortable, why should it not be reported? The purpose is to improve things. If the hospitals are not working, and that report is factually correct, why should it not be reported ? It’s only for improvement,” he said.

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